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Stills and Distillation

copper still

All gin needs to have juniper as the predominant flavour and be at least 37.5% ABV.  What differentiates the varieties of Gin is the process in which they are made and whether or not more than just water has been added i.e., natural or artificial flavourings etc.

London Dry - doesn't mean it has to be made in London, but it does mean it is made using traditional methods and that only base spirit and natural flavourings (botanicals) can be used. Nothing else is added post distillation except for water.

Distilled Gin - distilled using a base spirit but unlike London Dry, additional natural or artificial flavourings can be added post distillation.

Gin - 'cold-compound' any type of alcohol can be used in the process and the flavourings are added to the spirit, they can be both natural or artificial. 

 

The process of distillation, which originates from the Latin 'de-stillare' meaning drip or trickle down, is the process whereby you see the separation of a liquid by evaporation and condensation.  The simplest example of this is when steam is produced from a boiling kettle.

 

Most ancient civilisations at some points have had a process of distilling to make an alcoholic spirit, it was recorded that the Chinese were using rice to create beverages in about 800bc.

Distilling was predominately used for medicinal purposes and help to create remedies to ease common ailments.  From about the 14th and 15th centuries the process of distillation was used to create alcoholic beverages.

 

There are many different stills available.  At Collymoon Craft we use alembic copper stills from Portugal for all our research and development.  For small batch runs at Distillutions we are using a stainless-steel hybrid still, using a pot with a column that has one copper bubble cap plate, the copper removes impurities as the spirit vapour passes through the column.

 

At Collymoon Craft we like to use the traditional one-shot approach for distillation. By this we mean that all the botanicals and spirit are placed directly into the still, and then only water is added to reduce the ABV% for bottling. The shortened version of the process is as follows; First we add the Charge to the pot, the NGS (neutral grain spirit).  Next after preparing the botanicals, these must be precisely weighed, the ratios are upscaled from our development recipe in the 2.5L still to ensure that we retain the original flavour profile.  The botanicals are then added.  In the small still these will go directly into the charge in the larger still they are placed in muslin bags then placed in the charge.  The still is then heated, alcohol boils at about 78 degrees Celsius.  A constant flow of cold water is used to keep the condenser cool.  

 

The spirit run is when the distillate starts to flow.  The spirit run is made up of three cuts: Heads, Hearts and Tails.  The Heads contains methanol and doesn't smell very nice, so you don't want this in your final gin.  When you notice a change to the aroma and citrus notes appear you are now moving into the Hearts, the most flavoursome part and eventually your final gin.  You keep taking small cuts to ensure that the flavour is still good.  When the flavour starts to turn bitter, we move onto the Tails cut, again you don't want this part of the run, as it will impact the overall quality and flavour of your Hearts.  The distillate produced is usually between 75-85% ABV once you have accurately calculated the ABV using an alcoholmeter, you can then calculate how much water you need to cut your gin.  The minimum to be a gin is 37.5% ABV after that it is down to the distiller and what gin they are creating.

 

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